Homz is the first national housing company dedicated to building a portfolio of sustainable and wellness-focused communities centered around branded attainable housing in key markets across the U.S. It recently raised $50 million in pre-seed funding, with the lead investor in the round being Nanban Ventures. To learn more about the company, Pulse 2.0 interviewed Homz managing director Dipika Patel.
Dipika Patel’s Background
Dipika’s father Mash Patel and grandfather Charlie Patel were experienced hospitality investors so real estate is in her DNA.
“I learned the ins and outs of the hospitality industry throughout my childhood and teenage years growing up in Manchester, U.K., and it’s something that I fell in love with. Hospitality is all about helping people and providing them with an experience that is memorable, and this is my passion – it’s why I remain involved with the family business still today,” said Patel. “There was a time, however, when I thought that maybe I wanted to forge my own path and pursue a career outside of real estate. I’m analytically minded and love numbers, so I felt I could be very successful if I pursued a career in finance. I ended up getting a degree in business finance from the Business School of Manchester and then moved to the U.S. to continue my studies and obtained an MBA from NYU.”
Patel’s first job after graduating from NYU in the early 2000s was as a financial analyst, where she was the only Indian female financial analyst on the trading floor. She quickly learned that the financial industry did not resonate with her the way the hospitality industry did.. Patel pointed out that she loved the fast pace and responsibilities associated with finance, but “something was missing.”
Shortly after, Patel left the position and returned to the family business – Patel Capital — where today she serves as CEO and she also serves as Executive Chairwoman of Patel Family Office, which is her family’s investment arm. “My passion is helping people, giving back, and making the world a better place,” Patel stated, “and I just felt that the hospitality industry provided me with better opportunities to make a difference in the lives of people around the globe.”
Some of the notable milestones Patel has accomplished so far in her career include developing more than 25 hotels and creating the boutique hotel brand Hayden in NYC; leading the sale of a $160 million portfolio of hotels; and converting over $250 million in equity capital into a portfolio valued at more than $1 billion.
Formation Of Homz
How did the idea for Homz come together? “My career in hospitality was the catalyst for me launching Homz, which is dedicated to addressing the shortage of attainably priced rental housing units in the U.S.,” Patel explained. “I often wondered why no residential developer considered bringing the model pioneered by Marriott, Hilton and other hospitality brands – in which a standardized design and uniformed layout unlock critical efficiencies – to multifamily development. It results in cost savings that can be passed on to renters, and I thought this model could be highly effective in helping to solve one of the biggest problems plaguing our country: the need for more attainable housing.” So Patel wanted to be the one to do it. By leveraging the hospitality model, Homz intends to build a portfolio of sustainable and wellness-focused communities in tier-2 markets that all feature the same design, layout and amenities.
“I am very excited with all of the attention Homz has gotten thus far and the conversations we have been having with city officials. Having had the opportunity to travel all over the world, I understand the critical role quality housing plays in fueling socioeconomic advancement, and I see Homz as the solution to address the lack of optionality plaguing the ‘missing middle’ – renters whose primary options are typically older-vintage Class B and C workforce housing,” Patel added.
Challenges Faced Building The Company
What were some of the challenges Patel faced in building the company? “There are always challenges when you’re a trendsetter, and our biggest one right now is helping city and government officials to fully appreciate the powerful solution we are bringing to the table. We have been having very good and productive dialogues, but this is really the first time someone has come to them with a completely different and forward-thinking solution to solve the housing affordability problem. So, it takes time and multiple conversations for them to fully grasp our model,” Patel acknowledged. “What’s more, unlike traditional agreements cities have with developers in which a city will provide a developer with incentives to build a community and the developer will hold on to the community for five to seven years, our model is different. We are focused on obtaining incentives that make it possible for us to develop these communities, and in return we will own and operate them for 20 to 25 years, thereby creating a close alignment of interests and long-term investment in the community. At the conclusion of our hold period, we return control of the community back to the city.”
So, it has taken Homz a little more time to come to an agreement with cities to develop its communities than it would take for a developer to obtain approval to develop a typical multifamily asset in the traditional way. That said, the company has already secured multiple agreements with cities throughout the Southeast and they are excited to begin the development process in the near future.
Tell us more about your core products. It appears that all of Homz’s communities will feature four multifamily brands – UP, 24, NJOY, and LYF – all designed to meet renters at different stages of their lives (along with a selection of build-to-rent single-family homes).
“The design of each of our brands will be standardized so as to be easily replicable and identifiable across markets. UP and 24 will target value seekers, while NJOY and LYF offer larger floorplans to accommodate roommates and growing families. By offering greater housing optionality, our communities are positioned to attract the diverse, highly talented workforces that meaningfully contribute to the growth and development of their local economies,” Patel noted. “In addition to our diverse housing options, we also intend to introduce 54 publicly available amenities, including clubhouses, pools, athletic fields, playgrounds, urban farms, Miyawaki forests, and more, in order to foster deeper senses of wellness and satisfaction among residents. Our intention is to create dynamic, vibrant neighborhoods that people want to be part of, bringing residents together and drawing visitors and business from within and outside the community.”
As mentioned earlier, Homz raised $50 million in pre-seed funding. The funding round was led by Nanban Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in startups like Homz that are committed to making a positive societal impact.
“Not only does a raise of this size so early in our life cycle provide us with added credibility when we approach cities and additional investors, but it further validates our proof of concept. The proceeds will be helpful in allowing us to accelerate our efforts to form partnerships with cities across the Southeast and fund the development of our communities,” Patel commented.
Total Addressable Market
What is the total addressable market (TAM) size that Homz is pursuing? “The industry would have needed to develop 328,000 new apartment communities per year from 2016 to 2030 to meet the demand for rental housing (or 4.6 million apartments in total) per the National Multi-Family Housing Council. But in reality, the average annual shortfall is roughly 30%. On top of that, only a small fraction of the product coming online is attainably priced, and in the markets, we are targeting, that number is even smaller. So, there is a serious need for the product type we are building, and we believe that our model offers a win-win-win solution for cities, residents, and investors,” Patel analyzed. “For cities, we are committed to being long-term partners and building communities that act as catalysts for attracting new companies and people to the area. For residents, we are enabling them to live in a safe and secure environment with access to an abundance of resources and amenities – a lifestyle that has historically been reserved for high-income Americans. And for the investment community, we provide an opportunity to contribute to the betterment of society and the livelihoods of many individuals and families without limiting their return potential.”
Differentiation From The Competition
What differentiates Homz from its competition? “We have created a business model that is fundamentally different from anything that exists in the market and presents an innovative approach to solving the housing crisis. Moreover, we bring to the table a team with a proven track record and decades of experience creating value for our partners. And, unlike other developers, our model allows us to bridge the affordability gap for the ‘missing middle’ and generate strong returns for both our own investors as well as the cities themselves,” Patel emphasized. “In the tier-2 markets we are targeting, nothing like the communities we are building exists. These communities are often overlooked by corporations in their expansion plans or by individuals looking to raise families. The economic impact that we expect our communities will generate for cities and businesses is estimated to be collectively in the billions. We don’t gauge ourselves against the competition because nothing like our model exists. We are committed to leaving this world a better place than we found it, and we celebrate any peer who is as committed to this mission as we are.”
Future Company Goals
What are some of Homz’s future company goals? “Our ultimate goal is to play a role in ensuring everyone in the country has a place they are proud to call home, and that they can pay their rent without having to sacrifice other necessities. In the near term, we are focused on continuing to raise money, secure agreements with cities, and break ground on some of our developments. We plan to develop 50 of these communities over the next several years, and believe we can eventually expand these communities to regions beyond the Southeast,” Patel concluded.
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